Drought-resistant species to feed the cows and the pastoralists (IRINNews / Willem Van Cotthem)

Read at : IRIN

http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=89118

BURKINA FASO: Feed the cows

DORI/OUAGADOUGOU, 13 May 2010 (IRIN) – Three men yank at the limbs and tail of an emaciated cow to put it into a cart. Animals arriving daily by truck in the Burkina capital Ouagadougou from all over the country are too weak to stand, much less walk.

Erratic rains last year in Burkina, where animal husbandry is the main livelihood in many regions, resulted in widespread shortages of water and pasture.

Aid workers and breeders say the poor condition of local livestock – animals that have not already migrated in search of pasture – is hitting families’ food security. The livestock families keep at home are critical sources of food and revenue.

“The worry is for those [animals] that have stayed, given the lack of food and water for them,” said Stéphane Degueurce of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Burkina, who recently travelled to affected areas in Burkina’s north and Sahel regions.

“It’s a chain,” he said. “The animals have nothing to eat so they don’t produce and cannot be a source of revenue; so people have a tough time feeding the family but also their animals. And round it goes. Regression sets in and poverty deepens.”

WFP representative in Burkina Annalisa Conte said shoring up livestock will be critical for these communities.

(continued)

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MY COMMENT (Willem Van Cotthem)

First some quotes from this article :

(1) Erratic rains last year in Burkina, where animal husbandry is the main livelihood in many regions, resulted in widespread shortages of water and pasture.

(2) …the poor condition of local livestock – animals that have not already migrated in search of pasture – is hitting families’ food security. The livestock families keep at home are critical sources of food and revenue.

(3) WFP representative in Burkina Annalisa Conte said shoring up livestock will be critical for these communities.

(4) …You could give food to the pastoralists, but they are still going to lose their capital – the animals.

(5) Most people do not ask for food for themselves, for their families; they ask for food for their animals.

(6) Unpredictable rains aside, agencies and the government are looking at how best to help in the near and longer term.

(7) … one billion CFA francs (US$1.9 million) is required to help pastoralist communities.

(8) Among actions the government plans are subsidizing animal feed and digging boreholes to increase water sources.

(9) … experts recommended that animal feed be provided at subsidized prices, according to participants from WFP and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The government also plans to create pasture parks.

(10) “It is purely a lack of means to feed their animals during the dry season,” herder Ouédraogo Oumarou told IRIN. “If people could access animal feed the cattle would not automatically waste away during this season. But families are struggling to feed themselves – how can they deal with feeding their animals?”

(11) FAO points out that animals are faring better in some provinces than in others, due to better access to water and a practice of producing and stocking animal feed. “But across the board, the view of livestock farmers and experts is that if appropriate solutions are not found to feed these animals the risk of death is high.”

(12) “If the rains come on time we should be OK,” Cissé Hamadoun, head of the village development council, told IRIN. “The animals would be able to recuperate, there would be more leaves we use for sauce, people would be able to grow corn, and families would have enough milk.”

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Considering the 12 points above, one single question comes to my mind : “What would happen if FAO and WFP would provide seeds of drought-resistant plant grassland species to the pastoralists?”  With a bit of rain drought-resistant fodder species would grow and produce a stock of animal feed, in particular in pasture parks (see the government plans).

With a bit of rain drought-resistant food crops would also grow in small family gardens of the pastoralists, providing sufficient fresh food for adults and children.

Impossible ? Just have a look at some publications to be convinced of some interesting possibilities.  Registered success stories, even in full Sahara desert, delivered already the proof. It suffices to take the right decisions.

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About Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.
This entry was posted in Agriculture, drought tolerant plants, family farming, FAO, food / food security, grassland / rangeland, hunger / famine, Pastoralism / animal husbandry, WFP. Bookmark the permalink.